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Sunday, April 30, 2006

Darfur needs an intervention

Over at Dean's World, Aziz is asking the right questions:
Can anyone explain to me why the heck we haven't just gone in bombed the crap out of the janjaweed militias in Darfur yet?

It's a simple question. Why are we discussing potential airstrikes on Iran but none on the murdering children-mutilating rapist thug scum?

I'd love to say that the right answer is that the UN is on it, so we don't have to worry, but it's impossible to be that drunk and still type. So here are several reasons why we have done next to nothing while genocide is being committed:

Bombing alone won't solve the problem. We (or someone, anyway) would have to get a substantial number of troops in country. This is quite possibly logistically impossible because of our committment in Iraq: Ironically, by not sending more troops into Iraq early on, when they might have made a huge difference, Rumsfeld probably has ensured that we can't draw down our forces there now. (Ironic to me, probably not so ironic to our troops or to the people dying in Iraq Darfur.)

But even if it we could somehow pull it off logistically, there are a host of other political problems inherent in any American troop committment, particularly in Africa. You'll have your charges that the US is imperialistic, hegemonistic, and racist, for starters. Let's face it: as long as we are the world's only superpower, much of the world is going to fear and/or loathe us. Already, everything we do is perceived in the worst possible light, everything action we take is considered selfish. (And if that's how Democrats feel, imagine how foreigners feel.)

The commenters at Dean's World give some thoughtful answers to Aziz's question, summed up thusly:

"Why does America have do to everything? Let someone else doing something for a change."

"We can't do everything." (The logistics issue I brought up earlier.)

"We'll be called imperialists, racists, etc." (Also mentioned above.)

"Iranian nukes are a potential threat to America. Dead people in Darfur are not."

"What's happening in Darfur is horrible, but it's not our problem."

(This is, of course, a gross oversimplification of the comments. I should also point out that commenters were presenting the reasons they think we're not bombing the bad guys in Darfur, reasons they don't necessarily agree with.)

In my mind, these comments ultimately come down to two trains of thought. First, that we can only do so much in so many places, and what we do isn't appreciated anyway, so it's time for someone else to step forward and pick up the slack. And second, that the events in Darfur are definitely tragic, but absent a threat to the US, our military should not get involved.

I call these the "disgruntled neocon" and "military isolationist" positions.

Disgruntled neocons are generally all for getting militarily involved in other nations' affairs, even if those affairs don't directly threaten the US. However, they're sick to death of the name calling and America-bashing that inevitably accompany such involvement, much of it from our supposed allies across the pond, who for the most part refuse to do any of the work. The disgruntlecons think it's high time some European nations starting pulling their weight, rather than sitting on the sidelines and criticizing those who get in the game.

Military isolationists think that US military might should be used only in direct defense of America. For the most part, they are not true isolationists who want to withdraw from the world: they are all for America intervening in places like the Sudan, just not militarily. They urge (or at the very least have no problem with) the use of diplomacy, sanctions, and other measures to help resolve situations; they just don't think that any American troops should be asked to risk their lives unless America is directly threatened.

I have some sympathy with both positions, for overlapping reasons. It is definitely frustrating to the point of genuine rage that we are for the most part the only nation on the planet that is ever willing to stick its neck out, and as thanks for this we get condescendingly sneered at by the so-called "sophisticates" of Europe, dragged through the streets by the people we're trying to help in Somalia, and told we are stupid, selfish, ignorant, vain, and the most evil and repressive country in the word by just about everyone except the Israelis. If I were president my first act after being sworn in would be to recall all military personnel from Europe, along with their weapons systems. The Soviet Union is gone, and it's long past time we stopped subsidizing Europe's defense. (My second action would be to withdraw from the UN and give Kofi Annan-intervention 30 days to pack up his corrupt and bloated staff and find a home elsewhere.)

But here's the thing. None of those things ultimately matter to me, because I can't get past the numbers. The civilian death toll in Darfur is currently estimated to be 180,000, according to UN humanitarian affairs chief Jan Egeland.
"It could be just as well more than 200 000 (dead) but I think 10 000 a month is a reasonable figure," said Egeland who emphasised that the toll does not include those killed in the fighting between the local black population and government-backed militias. [emphasis mine]
On top of this is the displacement of 2 million people, a number that is expected to rise to around 4 million unless efforts at stabilization are stepped up. Then throw in the countless rapes committed by the Janjaweed militias as they wantonly destroy entire villages.


For the same reason I supported going into Iraq, I think that, whatever the downsides, we have to intervene in Darfur, and we have to do it quicky and with everything we've got. Sometimes "This cannot stand" is the only reason you need for taking action, and this is one of those times. I will never understand how 300,000 bodies in mass graves along with the existence of rape rooms and torture chambers were not enough for most liberals to fervently support military action in Iraq. If that's not enough, if you think the figures from Darfur aren't enough to override any negative consequences, then what the hell is your tipping point? How many people have to die to meet your standard, what number has to be plugged into your equation of death? How many Sudanese equal one American?

If the Europeans want to sit on their nuanced asses and pretend they're in any way still relevant, fine. The ones who don't escape to the US will all be dues paying members of the Caliphate soon anyway. (Sometimes you really do reap what you sow.)

If people want to question our motives and call us names, let them. As long as we know that our motives are humanitarian, who cares? Call us racists as our multi-ethnic armed forces save the lives of people who happen to be black. Call us imperialists after we do our job and give the country back to its people. Call us evil and repressive as we liberate another country from thugs while you do nothing. Saving lives is far more important than worrying about what Le Monde and Stern say about us.

It's already too late to prevent mass murder. It's not too late to prevent more deaths, and it's long past time we take care of the killers.

Like it or not, as usual it's up to us.

Blogger Paul said...

It's certainly a chance for Bush to put his money where his mouth is. He to this day claims to have gone to Iraq to bring freedom. I'm in disagreement with you that that is a legitimate reason for war, but I do see this situation in Darfur as entirely legitimate (and much different from Iraq).

Increasingly the UN appears to be a hindrance to justice when it matters most. And yes, the EU are completely useless. Dunno about pulling our defenses out, though. Is the West really going to allow them to become one huge Caliphate?

I think it'd be a huge morale boost for our military to be able to go in and do something unambiguously justified for people who will actually say thank you. Add in the bonus that you get to make Europe look like the pussy assholes they are and it seems like a no-brainer.

I think the Son of the Trinity might be sympathetic, but I suspect the Father and Holy Ghost are going to resist giving a shit. We all know Cheney's voting record on South African apartheid. A US diplomat explained it thusly during the Rwandan genocide, "America doesn't have friends, it has interests. America doesn't have any interests in Africa." I think that still holds true, and is the reason why many feel the Administration's claims of humanitarianism being their primary concern in Iraq are less than genuine.

But please, Dick, prove me wrong.


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